Education Ministry backs away from ban of Jewish-Arab love novel

The Education Ministry on Thursday backed away slightly from its disqualification of a novel depicting a love story between an Israeli and Palestinian which it earlier deemed inappropriate for study by high school students, Haaretz reported.

At the same time, Education Minister Naftali Bennett unequivocally backed the ministry's decision to ban the book from the national curriculum, telling Channel 2 that exposing high school students to a book which "depicts IDF soldiers as sadistic war criminals" was not a national priority.  

According to the new decision, the novel “Gader Haya” ("Borderlife" in English) by Dorit Rabinyan can be studied in advanced literature studies classes, but not as part of the regular school curriculum.

The novel was rejected because of the need to maintain "the identity and heritage of students in every sector" and the belief that "intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews threatens the separate identity", according to the original decision, which caused an uproar among the left.

Concern that "young people of adolescent age don't have the systemic view that includes considerations involving maintaining the identity of people and the significance of assimilation" was also cited as a reason for the novel's disqualification.

Bennett said in his TV interview Thursday that, while he wasn't involved in the decision to ban the book, he fully supports the decision.

"This has nothing to do with censorship," the minister said, according to Haaretz. "Whoever wants to read the book can buy it."

But he stressed that he wouldn't "force" Israeli children to read a book in which "soldiers are equated with Hamas terrorists and which describes an affair between a Palestinian security detainee and an Israeli woman."

He stressed that "there are thousands of books vying to be included in the compulsory school material. Most aren't included… We need to make choices. It's more important to study [Natan] Alterman and Yehuda Halevy."

Leftist MKs and authors were outraged over Wednesday’s disqualification of the novel, blasting the Education Ministry and Bennett.

Natan Zach, a controversial leftist Israeli poet, went so far as to issue a straightforward reaction to the ban, blasting the Education Minister as "a moron. What can you do against morons? Morons are the majority. We are the minority."

Meanwhile, Rabinyan responded to Bennett's comments on Thursday, saying, "Mr. Bennett did not read 'Borderlife'. His mendacious rhetoric in which he cherry-picked quotes, taking them out of context, is unbefitting an education minister in Israel and is infinitely more severe than the initial disqualification."

"Those who have read the book will attest that it is rife with patriotism and concern for [Israel's] future more than anything else," she added.


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